Talent for Tumult

By Randy Noles and Ed Gfeller
John A. Rice was hired by Rollins College President Hamilton Holt to teach classical languages. But he was far more effective at angering his boss and his colleagues.
John A. Rice was hired by Rollins College President Hamilton Holt to teach classical languages. But he was far more effective at angering his boss and his colleagues.

During its 130 years of existence, Rollins College has employed its share of controversial faculty members. But few could match John Andrew Rice Jr., a pugnacious professor of classics whose combination of intellect and insufferability flummoxed the community, divided the campus and enraged President Hamilton Holt.

By the time Rice was fired in 1933, he had been accused of everything from parading around in public clad only in a jock strap (which he denied) to insulting religion and alienating members of the local clergy (which he didn’t deny).

But the impact of Rice’s dismissal on Rollins was significant, causing the college to be censured by the American Association of University Professors, and leading to an exodus of eight highly regarded faculty members.

Some of those academic exiles joined Rice in founding a now-legendary experimental college near Asheville, North Carolina. Black Mountain College embraced innovation and was governed based upon the kind of democratic principles that Rice accused Holt of quashing at Rollins. Ultimately, however, Rice’s prickly personality doomed him — even in a place designed specifically around his educational philosophies.

Wherever he went, turmoil followed Rice, who was described as witty and engaging when he chose to be, but harsh and sarcastic with those whom he judged to be intellectually lazy or hidebound by tradition — particularly his colleagues and bosses.

The famously liberal Holt, who took pride in his teaching-oriented faculty of “golden personalities,” certainly foresaw no tumult when he hired Rice, a 41-year-old native of South Carolina.

But Rice, who elevated insubordination to an art form, was to expose Holt’s autocratic streak while testing the proud progressive’s tolerance for dissension and disharmony.

OFFENSE: Rice was accused of parading around his campus-owned home, in full view of students, wearing only a jock strap.
OFFENSE: Rice was accused of parading around his campus-owned home, in full view of students, wearing only a jock strap.

The ill-fated relationship began in 1929, when Rice was on a Guggenheim Fellowship at Oxford University. Holt was also visiting England, and met with Rice at the behest of his friend Frank Aydelotte, president of prestigious Swarthmore College near Philadelphia.

Impressed and intrigued, Holt proffered a position teaching Greek and Latin in Winter Park. “I think it’s about time I had a liberal on my faculty,” said Holt, according to a later account by Rice. “I haven’t got one now.”

(Holt was likely being facetious; his faculty, in fact, included several notable liberals — including attorney Royal Wilbur France, a professor of economics who advocated for free speech and would later become chairman of the Florida Socialist Party.)

Indeed, Holt was favorably predisposed toward Rice because of the recommendation from Aydelotte, who might actually have believed that the pugnacious professor would be a good fit for Rollins. Of course, the fact that Rice also happened to be Aydelotte’s brother-in-law couldn’t have hurt.

OFFENSE: Rice was accused of offending local religious leaders and mocking a service in the Knowles Memorial Chapel.
OFFENSE: Rice was accused of offending local religious leaders and mocking a service in the Knowles Memorial Chapel.


While public relations was clearly not Rice’s calling, academia seemed to be a logical career path. He was born in 1888 at the family home, Tanglewood Plantation, near Lynchburg, South Carolina.

His father, John Andrew Rice Sr., was a Methodist minister who eventually became president of Columbia College, a women’s liberal arts college in Columbia, South Carolina. The elder Rice was also a founding faculty member at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

An enlightened theologian, Rice’s father resigned from SMU after being thwarted in his attempt to design a course that reconciled creationism with evolution. But he continued preaching, and was called to lead prestigious churches around the country.

Rice’s mother, Annabelle Smith, was the sister of U.S. Sen. Ellison Durant “Cotton Ed” Smith, a virulent white supremacist who represented South Carolina from 1909 to 1944. (Rice, who would later write for political magazines that promoted racial justice, frequently repudiated his infamous uncle’s views.)

Annabelle died in 1899. Two years later, his father married Launa Darnell, a schoolteacher and the daughter of a Methodist minister, who became stepmother to Rice and his two brothers.

Launa encouraged Rice to attend the Webb School, a highly regarded college-prep boarding school in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. During his time there, from 1905 to 1908, he was inspired by co-founder John “Old Jack” Webb, whom he would credit for many of his own unorthodox views on teaching and learning.

“Webb used to sit talking to himself and trimming his grey beard with pocket scissors,” Rice told Time magazine in 1940. “He taught Greek, English, history, math, everything — sitting in a split-bottom chair and gently posing riddles to his pupils.”

Rice then attended Tulane University — his father was serving as pastor of a church in New Orleans — where he graduated in just three years. “The diploma said I was a baccalaureus artium, and when the president handed it to me, he welcomed me into the ‘company of educated men,’” Rice later wrote. “They were both liars.”

OFFENSE: Rice was accused of making derisive remarks about fellow faculty members, describing some as incompetent and boring.
OFFENSE: Rice was accused of making derisive remarks about fellow faculty members, describing some as incompetent and boring.

Degree in hand, Rice won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where he met Aydelotte and his sister, Nell, whom he wed upon graduation in 1914. He began his teaching career at the Webb School, but left after a year to pursue a doctorate in classics — which he never completed — at the University of Chicago.

Nonetheless, Rice secured a position as an instructor in Greek at the University of Nebraska, where he, his wife and their two young children lived from 1920 to 1927.

Rice was popular with students for his freewheeling classroom style, which favored the discussion of ideas over the memorization of facts. But he won few friends among other faculty members — especially when he began writing articles for academic journals that harshly criticized their traditional lecture-and-response teaching methods.

Fortunately for Rice, he was close to Chancellor Sam Avery, who enjoyed the ornery educator’s blunt pronouncements and shielded him from his many campus enemies. Still, despite his relatively high regard for Avery, Rice judged the university to be “full of incompetents, misfits, the intellectually lazy, and trash.”

Rice wrote that Avery tried to tame him — or at least prevent him from sabotaging his own career. “Why don’t you keep your mouth shut, Rice?” Avery asked, exasperated. “If you would just keep it shut for, say, six months or a year, I could raise your salary.”

Discretion was apparently too much to expect. When his powerful protector retired due to ill health, Rice was quickly — and not surprisingly — fired. Then, after two years at the New Jersey College for Women, he was forced to resign after again antagonizing administrators and colleagues.

In typical Rice fashion, he blamed his troubles in New Jersey on inferior intellects who failed to understand him. He later referred to the dean as “an energetic butter-and-egg woman” who had been a poor student and founded the college primarily to exact revenge on professors.

The Guggenheim Fellowship, which ultimately led to Rice’s position at Rollins, followed. Undeniably, Holt failed to conduct routine due diligence. But even if he had realized how difficult a character Rice could be, it might not have made any difference in his hiring decision.

The genial Holt may simply have reasoned that pacifying eccentric professors was his specialty. After all, his picture-postcard campus was something of an oasis for strong-willed intellectuals — and, from all appearances, he enjoyed their respect as well as their affection. Some of them even called him “Hammy.”

High-profile activists such as France, the socialist, had indeed found a friend in the open-minded president, who always seemed to strike a balance between supporting academic freedom and maintaining community goodwill. But France, like Holt, was at least a gentlemanly sort.

Such a description would not be applicable to the unfiltered Rice. In fact, the veneer of harmony on campus — and the conservative conventions of Winter Park — seemed to intensify his need to foment divisiveness.

OFFENSE: Rice was accused of displaying a pinup in his classroom and leading frank discussions about sex.
OFFENSE: Rice was accused of displaying a pinup in his classroom and leading frank discussions about sex.


Not long after Rice’s arrival, he began to make his presence felt. During a conference dubbed “The Place of the Church in the Modern World,” Rice chose to question the place of the church in Winter Park, specifically.

Addressing a roomful of clergymen, he posited what the impact might be if all the houses of worship along Interlachen Avenue vanished and were replaced by open space. “What difference would it make,” he asked, “and to whom?”

Rice was, of course, accused of anti-clericalism. But this kind of exchange was indicative of the Socratic teaching method — at least Rice’s ultra-aggressive version of it — which encouraged students to find deeper meaning through the posing of provocative questions.

Locals, however, saw only an arrogant atheist mocking their traditions. And, truth be told, they weren’t entirely wrong.

Rice offended many others, most significantly Frances “Fannie” Knowles Warren, donor of the college’s impressive new Knowles Memorial Chapel, by indiscreetly describing the chapel’s inaugural Christmas service as “obscene.”

Holt, too, was outraged, since the chapel was a source of pride and Warren was an important patron. Plus, Rice had once again seemed to diminish the importance of Christianity in a community where religious faith was central to the lives of most residents.

Founded by the Florida Congregational Association through a campaign led by members of the First Congregational Church of Winter Park — its pastor, Edward P. Hooker, would become the college’s first president — Rollins was nevertheless a secular institution.

Holt, Rice wrote, never indicated that there was any sort of religious litmus test for faculty members. If the president “had been any kind of judge of men,” Rice added, “he had full opportunity to discover that I was not the kind of man he wanted” when the two met and spoke at length in England.

Rice’s disdain for churches, however, was only one of the ways in which he goaded Holt. His classroom behavior also caused controversy.

While Rice had been hired to teach classical languages, his students didn’t learn much Latin or Greek. Instead, they were led on intense intellectual tangents that often bore little resemblance to the published course descriptions.

Once, he displayed a photograph of a scantily clad woman from a calendar purchased at a local drugstore for the sole purpose of provoking a discussion on the meaning of art. And he initiated frank dialogues about sex — much to the chagrin of administrators, parents and perhaps even some sheltered students.

Rice also used his classroom platform to disparage other faculty members by name, calling them “incompetent” or describing them as “old-fashioned pedagogues who were wedded to a book.”

When Rice — a disheveled, pudgy figure wearing thick, round-framed glasses — strode to the podium, students didn’t know what to expect. They knew only that there would be no drills testing their aptitude for Greek or Latin.

Rice, in fact, found it ridiculous that the courses he was hired to teach were required for graduation. “This was not the latest thing in education,” he wrote. “It was one of the oldest.”

Still, despite his contrarian nature, Rice was asked by Holt to chair a faculty committee that would recommend whether or not fraternities were compatible with the college’s democratic values.

To Holt’s surprise, the panel called for abolishing the Greek system altogether because it “fostered elitism, exclusiveness, snobbishness, superiority, and promoted an unnatural and unhealthy relationship, and even social discrimination.”

Holt, a booster of school spirit and a supporter of fraternities, chose to ignore the recommendations. But why he thought a group headed by Rice might come to any other conclusion remains a mystery. The very idea of fraternities in a supposedly enlightened learning environment was anathema to Rice, as Holt ought to have realized in advance.

No single event seems to have led to Rice’s termination in 1933. After several years of turmoil, the cumulative effect of his presence had simply become too much for a president who valued loyalty and congeniality. Rice, Holt decided, had to go.

But he didn’t make his firing — or his “non-reappointment” — easy. When informed by Holt that he was not to return the following semester, Rice asked for another chance, vowing to moderate his behavior and even consult with the school psychologist.

Holt agreed to think about it. During his deliberations, some progressive faculty members aligned themselves with Rice. Others, grateful to have jobs during the Great Depression, tried to steer clear of the impending storm.

Most, however, vocally supported Holt’s effort to rid the campus of a man they had come to regard as an intellectual bully.

Rice’s students — some of whom loved him and some of whom loathed him — were more eager than his colleagues to rally around him. But, unlike faculty members, students didn’t endanger their careers by taking a pro-Rice stance.

By the following Friday, Rice wrote, Holt “had by all reports, relented, and I was to see him on Saturday morning.” But on Friday night, Rice continued, Holt had dinner with Warren and Irving Bacheller, the bestselling author and trustee who had brought Holt to Rollins.

Neither of Holt’s dinner guests, Rice speculated, would have been sympathetic to his cause. Warren, in particular, likely offered particularly strong opinions about what should happen to the man she believed had insulted her beloved chapel.

“When I stepped into [Holt’s] office the next day his face was grim,” wrote Rice. “He said, ‘Have you anything to say before I give you my decision?’” That’s when Holt fired Rice the second time.

Soon Rice filed a complaint with the AAUP, a professional association that dealt with issues of academic freedom and tenure. The organization had been co-founded in 1915 by educational reformer John Dewey, who had visited Rollins just two years earlier to chair a high-profile conference on the future of the liberal arts curriculum.

Ironically, both Holt and Rice were adherents of Dewey’s student-centered approach to higher education. Holt incorporated many of Dewey’s ideas in his vaunted “conference plan,” which de-emphasized lectures, valued teaching over research and, in Holt’s words, “put Socrates on an eight-hour day.”

Under the conference plan, three two-hour periods per day were dedicated to “work of the mind under a professor in a classroom” and a fourth two-hour period to activities “which may range from working to pay tuition to rehearsing for the arts.”

On the surface, it seems that Holt and Rice really had little to argue about except matters of decorum. In many other ways, they shared similar philosophies. Rice, however, came to believe that Holt was a phony reformer — a closet conservative whose highly publicized innovations were no more than smoke and mirrors.

“Two hours with a bore is at least an hour too much,” wrote Rice of the conference plan’s structure and the teaching style of many professors. He also criticized students, many of whom he felt “were there for a good time — had they not been promised freedom?”

Rice, it appears, was convinced that he was merely implementing the lofty ideals to which Holt gave lip service — and was being punished for trying to deliver on Holt’s revolutionary rhetoric.

The AAUP had no official standing, as a union would today. But its roster included more than 5,000 members from 200 institutions of higher learning. Its approbation could at least cause embarrassment within the world of academia.

Responding to Rice’s complaint, AAUP representatives traveled to Winter Park and launched an investigation encompassing the charges against Rice as well as the college’s vague tenure policy — an issue that Holt believed was outside the panel’s purview.

The stage was set and a fiasco, predictably, ensued.

Holt had many perfectly defensible reasons for firing Rice. But instead of focusing on a few of the more egregious ones — for example, Rice’s refusal to teach the subjects he was contracted to teach — he chose to employ, as Rice described it, “a blunderbuss of hate,” presenting a laundry list of accusations that conflated the serious with the trivial.

Rice, Holt charged, had hung indecent pictures in his classroom. (“Indecent” was a subjective judgment, Rice replied, but he admitted to having displayed a calendar pinup to facilitate that now-infamous art conversation.)

He had strolled around his campus-supplied home wearing only a jockstrap. (No, he had not, Rice retorted, adding that he didn’t even own a jockstrap.) He had left fish scales in the sink of a college-owned rental cottage. (Yes, he acknowledged, he probably had, if that’s what the housekeeper said.)

Further, he had “scoffed” at a chapel service. (“You can’t put on a vaudeville show … and start winging with a choirmaster standing with his back to the altar in a Catholic-style chapel without incurring the charge of obscenity,” Rice responded.)

On and on it went. Rice, it was alleged, demeaned students he didn’t favor. He was critical of fraternities and sororities, encouraging disloyalty and disparaging youthful idealism. As for Rice’s classes, Holt conceded that he had never actually audited one, but had heard about them secondhand.

After eight days of contentious and sometimes comical testimony and commentary, AAUP co-founder Arthur Lovejoy, a Johns Hopkins philosophy professor and chairman of the investigating committee, had heard quite enough. He thanked everyone for their patience and promised a report as soon as possible.

Holt expected the worst — and he got it. The AAUP exonerated Rice, censured Rollins and criticized the college’s lack of a coherent tenure policy. Worse, the investigators disseminated their findings locally and nationally.

Rollins, its proverbial dirty laundry now publically aired, was placed on the organization’s “unacceptable institutions” list, much to Holt’s indignation and Rice’s delight.

But the AAUP couldn’t get Rice his job back. Nor could it prevent Holt from seeking retribution against those who had supported Rice, and now refused to offer a convincingly affirmative answer to the following question:

“Will you give your loyalty and support to reducing the [dissension] on the campus and in carrying out policies of the trustees, the faculty or acts by [Holt] or any others in authority even though you may intellectually differ with them?”

Ultimately, eight faculty members were fired or resigned, including several highly respected golden personalities, none of whom had any particular affection for Rice but all of whom disagreed with Holt’s tactics. The Orlando Morning Sentinel headline read, “Rollins Goes Off Gold Standard.”

Rice unquestionably brought many of his problems on himself. But he wasn’t alone in his views. Construction of the chapel, for example, wasn’t universally praised. During a national economic calamity, some thought that Warren’s gift of $300,000 could have been put to better use.

Moreover, there was a general concern that Holt had simply become too dictatorial in his operation of a college that touted collaboration and consensus. “Rollins is Holt and Holt is Rollins” was generally accepted as a statement of fact. But, as Rice never hesitated to point out, that was hardly the mantra of a democratic utopia.

“An enlightened patriarch (but a patriarch nonetheless), Holt demanded sweet harmony among the members of a community he was so painstakingly nurturing in Winter Park,” wrote Jack Lane, professor emeritus of history, in his unpublished 1985 manuscript marking the college’s centennial.

“So long as an issue was undecided, Holt encouraged the widest possible debate. But once the president or the community had decided, Holt deemed further discussion not only unnecessary but also counterproductive.”

In Lane’s manuscript, he describes “two souls that beat in the breast of Hamilton Holt.” There was the progressive Holt: “honest, broad-minded, forthcoming, openhearted, liberal, humorous, generous and kind — a delightful and lovable person.”

But Rice, according to Lane, managed to expose another side of Holt: “possessive, assertive, paternalistic … demanding authority within his realm.” It was this conventionally conservative administrator, Lane wrote, who allowed the infuriating Rice “to turn what would otherwise have been a routine faculty dismissal into a campus crisis.”


Led by Rice, three banished Rollins professors — among them Ralph Louns-
bury (government); Frederick Georgia (chemistry); and Theodore Dreier (physics) — went on to found Black Mountain College.

Continued on page 26

Continued from page 23

“I like the ones leaving better than the ones who are staying,” Holt later said, if Rice’s account is to be believed. But even if Holt never uttered those precise words, there’s truth in the sentiment.

The departure of Lounsbury was particularly painful, since the two had been friends since their undergraduate days together at Yale. Lounsbury, a conservative by nature, had tried in vain to broker a face-saving agreement between Holt and Rice. He died suddenly of a stroke at Black Mountain less than a year after his arrival.

Losing Dreier was also unfortunate for Holt, and for Rollins. Dreier’s family was quite wealthy, and he had many wealthy friends. Among them was Malcolm Forbes, a cousin of the publishing entrepreneur. Forbes had been a professor of psychology at the college, but had left several years earlier.

Together, Dreier and Forbes bailed out Black Mountain many times in the 1930s and ’40s. Dreier’s aunt, Margaret Dreier Robbins, resigned from the Rollins board of trustees in 1934, after her nephew was fired.

An activist for women’s rights, the ardently liberal Robbins had tried — and failed — to persuade an increasingly intransigent Holt to explore conciliatory approaches and avoid a damaging campus rift.

More than a dozen students also left Rollins to follow Rice and his compatriots. Amazingly, the group founded and organized the college in a short few months, opening for classes on the site of a YMCA summer conference facility in the fall of 1933 with 21 students. (At its peak, Black Mountain boasted an enrollment of about 100.)

Despite constant financial problems, the college garnered national attention for testing innovative ideas, including incorporation of the arts into all academic disciplines and adoption of an administrative model that shared governance between faculty and students. There would be no trustees, although there was a board of advisers on which Dewey served.

Rice, the college’s “rector,” recruited artist Josef Albers and weaver Anni Albers from Germany’s famed Bauhaus Art and Architecture Institute after it was closed by the Nazi regime. The couple was joined by Bauhaus stage designer and graphic artist Xanti Schawinsky.

Although Black Mountain students might select economics, foreign languages, mathematics or music as major areas in their individually tailored programs, all were required to take Albers’ drawing course and Rice’s classics course.

There were no formal degrees or graduation ceremonies, and the exams were oral, often administered by subject-matter experts outside the faculty. Students who completed their studies and wished to enter graduate programs at elite universities generally had little trouble doing so.

As the college’s reputation for innovation grew, numerous well-known visitors joined the community for days or weeks at a time, including Dewey, playwright Thornton Wilder, novelists Aldous Huxley and Henry Miller, and architects Marcel Breuer and Buckminster Fuller, who built his first geodesic dome on the campus. 

Black Mountain influenced progressive higher education at institutions such as the University of California at Santa Cruz, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and New College in Sarasota.

By 1940, though, Rice was accused of the same overbearing tactics that he had previously attributed to Holt. He was sent on sabbatical and then asked not to return.

Time magazine, in an interview with Rice, summed it up this way: “Individualist Rice soon began to find even his fellow experimenters too conventional, and argued bitterly with them. ‘I began to see, but slowly and with reluctance,’ he concludes, ‘that I must live apart from people, for their good and mine. A teacher should bring peace.’”

Black Mountain soldiered on, but finally closed in 1957 due to financial problems. Rice, however, had no intention of “bringing peace.” He had an autobiography to write — and perhaps a score to settle — with the educational establishment, including Holt.


In the summer of 1940, Rice started working on an autobiographical book, I Came Out of the Eighteenth Century, which was published in 1942 by Harper & Brothers (now HarperCollins). It earned rave reviews — Newsweek called Rice “a skilled and deadly writer” — but the book vanished seven months after its initial release when Holt threatened a libel suit and the publisher halted distribution.

In a chapter called “Rollins Was Holt,” Rice committed what Holt must have viewed as an unpardonable sin: He portrayed the president as an autocrat and described his college as a decidedly unserious, even silly, place.

To a modern reader, the chapter reads as funny and caustic — Rice was, indeed, skilled and deadly with words — but hardly libelous. That makes Harper & Brothers’ decision to abandon the book, which it had chosen for its 125th Anniversary Prize, all the more puzzling.

Rice mocked Holt’s tendency to bestow fanciful titles on faculty members, and skewered some of the people who held those titles. Cora Harris, a celebrated Southern writer who had written a bestselling autobiography, was “professor of evil.” Rice claimed that Harris’ class had met only once, to have a picture taken.

In fact, Harris was an unrepentant racist whose essays should have offended any enlightened person, even by the standards of the day. Holt, in most respects ahead of the curve on civil rights, not only published her writing, he praised it as “genius” when he was managing editor of The Independent, a New York-based magazine espousing progressive ideals. Why he did so remains a mystery.

Surely if Rice had known anything about Harris, he would have used her presence on campus to eviscerate Holt. It certainly would have been uncharacteristic of him to pass over such a tantalizing opportunity. But Holt escaped embarrassment because Rice seemed unaware of Harris’ pre-Rollins work.

Rice also ridiculed Fleetwood Peeples, a swimming instructor and director of aquatics who was also “professor of fishing and hunting.” The worst he could say of Peeples was that he was inept at catching speckled perch.

Of course, Rice couldn’t have known that Peeples, who was affiliated with the college for 50 years, would posthumously — and credibly — be accused by multiple women of molesting them when they were children.

Likewise, Rice lampooned the presence of a “professor of books,” from whom, he mused, he “might learn new uses to which books might be put.” He also attempt-ed to debunk Holt’s claim that the college had the world’s only professor of books.

But while Harris and Peeples were easy targets, Rice missed the mark when he turned his attention toward Edwin Osgood Grover.

In an effort to diminish Grover, Rice claimed that the professor of books had been a “salesman” for Rand McNally. As a young man, Grover had indeed been a textbook salesman for Ginn & Co. But he had been editor and vice-president at Rand McNally.

Rice also claimed that, just before being hired by Rollins, Grover had been an advance agent for Billy Sunday, a baseball player turned evangelist whose fundamentalism led him to oppose the teaching of evolution, immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and such popular amusements as dancing, playing cards and attending the theater. (Baseball was fine, Sunday opined, as long as it wasn’t played on the Lord’s Day.)

There’s no evidence of a connection between Grover and Sunday, so it’s difficult to know if Rice was being purposely misleading or was simply misinformed. In either case, Grover was irritated by Rice’s accusations, and asked Harper & Brothers to remove the erroneous passages — which the publisher agreed to do in a second edition.

But there would be no second edition for 72 years.

(Oddly, when a researcher bought a copy from the first printing of Rice’s book through eBay, he was surprised that the vintage volume was inscribed by none other than Grover. He wrote: “Freda Pendelton, Christmas 1942 from EOG.” Why, one wonders, would Grover had given Rice’s book as a gift if he had been so offended by some of its content?)

At first, Holt believed that the less attention the book received, the better. However, in the margins of two copies now held by the college’s Department of Archives and Special Collections, Holt’s handwritten comments reveal the extent to which Rice’s words had stung.

“Untrue,” “lies,” “never happened,” “doubt that occurred” and similar sentiments can be found scribbled in Holt’s hand throughout.

I Came Out of the Eighteenth Century was reissued in 2014 by the University of South Carolina Press through its Southern Classics series. In an afterword, Rice’s grandson, William Craig Rice, blames Holt for the suppression of his grandfather’s book.

William Craig Rice, now director of education programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities, further describes the publisher’s capitulation to Holt as “baffling” since the book contains nothing resembling libel.

Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University who wrote the new edition’s foreword, added that the book’s suppression silenced an important voice when it most needed to be heard.

“The nation lost a rich first-person historical account of race and class relations during a critical period — not only during the days of Rice’s youth, but at the dawn of the civil rights movement,” Bauerlein wrote.

As for Rice, he divorced his first wife and, in 1942, married Dikka Moen, with whom he had two more children. He then began a new career as a writer, contributing fiction to such publications as Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s and the New Yorker. He also published a book of short stories, many dealing with race relations, entitled Local Color (1957).

Rice, who was never again offered a teaching position, died in 1968 at his home in Maryland. Although he was happy in retirement, according to his grandson, he never shook the notion that he was born a century too late, and might have found more kindred spirits in an earlier time.

He told Time magazine that if he had his life to live over again, he would “choose the 18th century for its violence, yet touched with grace … for its long, clockless days … for its passionate belief that the world would be better, perhaps tomorrow … for its simple faith in simple words: justice, freedom, happiness; and belief in the rights of man, and faith in man.”

Ed Gfeller is a retired psychiatrist with an abiding interest in Winter Park history. In 2013, he produced a documentary on the Langford Resort Hotel and is currently working on a biography and a documentary on Edwin Osgood Grover (1870-1965), professor of books at Rollins College from 1926 to 1951. His contribution to this article is part of a chapter on the Rice affair that will appear in the Grover biography. 

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